Synapse // 1989 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // December 2nd, 2011
If this one doesn't scare you...you're already dead!
"There's gonna be one more killing here tonight."
It's closing time at the Walnut Lake Market, and it hasn't been a good night. Craig (David Byrnes), the crazy ex-con, ex-boyfriend of cashier Jennifer (Elizabeth Cox, Night of the Creeps) comes by to try to make up with her -- so aggressively, that the other workers have to physically eject him from the store. Then the crew gets bad news: owners Danny (Eugene Glazier, It's My Party) and Bill (Dan Hicks, Maniac Cop) announce that they're selling the place, though Bill wishes they weren't.
The staff is asked to stay late and mark down all the items. But as they go about slashing prices on toilet paper and canned beans, someone else is in the store -- slashing up the staff.
Intruder came along at the tail end of the '80s "golden age" of slashers, but you'd hardly know it. While it includes all the genre tropes (except gratuitous nudity, unfortunately), it presents them in a way that feels fresher and more creative than many of the countless other maniac-on-the-loose films that the decade produced.
While the basic plot -- lunatic picking off young people in a confined space -- and acting are nothing to write home about, writer/director Scott Spiegel and writer/producer Lawrence Bender keep their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks on this one without ever making Intruder one of those dreadfully self-conscious horror comedies. Of course, this isn't surprising when you consider that Spiegel was a long-time friend of Sam Raimi, the man behind The Evil Dead films (Spiegel shares writing credit on Evil Dead II; Sam's brother, Ted; and actor Bruce Campbell. The Raimis have significant roles in Intruder, playing a butcher and a produce guy, respectively, and Campbell turns up at the end for a brief bit as a cop.
The sensibility here: inventive and really gory kills, ironic dialogue, cleverly cynical ending, and a few unexpected treats. This includes the appearance of Tom Lester and Alvy Moore -- that's Eb Dawson and Hank Kimball from Green Acres -- as cops who turn up early in the film to check out a complaint about Craig. This bit works so well because it's not overplayed -- there's no Green Acres theme music, no mannerisms or catch phrases that recall the previous characters; if you get it, you get it, if you don't...well, that's OK too, no one is spoon feeding you a cultural reference. We get a number of sight gags -- some gruesome, some not -- and some nicely drawn characters, including a stoner who tells a ridiculous and funny story about a blender.
As noted, the kills here are especially gruesome; Spiegel uses his supermarket like a kid in a candy store, with every all that dangerous stuff you'd normally find in a market -- you know, butcher knives, meat hooks, things like that -- getting extensive play. This was one of the first major jobs for the KNB Efx Group, and Robert Kurtzman, Gregory Nicotero, and Howard Berger turn up in the supplements to talk about this early break.
The film also doesn't skimp on suspense. The first kill doesn't actually take place until nearly 40 minutes in, but Spiegel uses that time to establish the characters and build suspense, with the night crew searching the store for the deranged Craig. Spiegel offers up some very creepy extended moments here, rare for a slasher of the time.
Then there's the ending, which might be an affront to scream queens everywhere, but does answer some questions I've always had about how police deal with scenes of outrageous carnage.
Synapse is having a banner year in Blu, with top-flight releases of titles like Vampire Circus, The Dorm that Dripped Blood, Frankenhooker, and The Exterminator. This company clearly respects consumer appreciation for these off-the-beaten-path films, offering not just a high-def bump, but meaningful supplements as well. This release of Intruder (Blu-ray) is no exception.
The 1080p transfer isn't exactly a marvel of technology, but it's better than decent. There's a fair amount of grain, and the picture is soft in spots, but colors are good, and contrast and clarity are, overall, excellent. The audio is a simple DTS-HD mono track, which is clean, clear, and perfectly serviceable.
The slate of extras is impressive.
Commentary: Siegel and Bender -- who went on to produce for Quentin Tarantino -- have a great time reminiscing; a fun listen, informative and entertaining.
"Slashed Prices: The Making of Intruder": Most of the cast members get together for this 20-plus-year retrospective; again, a highly entertaining piece.
Extended Murder Sequences from the Original Workprint: More gore.
Outtakes from the now-lost short film, Night Crew: Intruder actually began its life as a short film Spiegel made when he was a teenager; that film -- Night Crew -- featured Sam Raimi in a leading role. It was shot in 8mm, and Spiegel gave his only copy to someone and never got it back, but here are some scenes he had laying around.
"The Slashing of Intruder" with Filmmaker Vincent Pereira: Like me, Pereira rented this on VHS in the late '80s, only to discover that the wondrous gore scenes he'd seen stilled in Fangoria had been cut for the home release; Pereira wrote a letter of outrage to the magazine, a move that had a very cool ending.
In addition there's a Behind-the-Scenes Stills Gallery, Original Cast Audition Footage, a DVD copy, as well as trailers.
Uh...I wish they'd had it ready for Halloween? No matter, there's always next year.
Oh, and subtitles...the commentary is well-worth listening to, but it would be nice to be able to read what was happening on screen, as well.
A great Blu-ray of a very cool film.
Review content copyright © 2011 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Extended Scenes
* Image Gallery
* DVD Copy